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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE BULL-HEADED PREMIER                    89

It was a fight in which Wang the premier won the first bout; but from
then on, all the officials of die country were lined up in two camps,
locked in party strife which went on until the end of the dynasty. The
/reform measures were modified or suspended after only a few years,
but the schism which developed had far grayer consequences for the
country.

In this political battle at court the issue was known as a fight between
"reactionaries" and "progressives", terms which appeared again and
again in the literature of that period and which Wang Acshih was
very fond of using. For him, anybody he disliked or anybody who dis-
agreed with him was a "reactionary" (liushu, conservative philistine),
while he and his followers were the "progressives" or "reformists"
(tungpien). The premier charged all critics with malicious intent to
.-block his reforms. On the other hand, the opposition charged that he
"regarded the fair criticism of people as reactionary and all who differed
from him as corrupt". As Liu Chih formulated it: "One party regards
the other as 'reactionary* and the other regards the ruling party as
'rebels against all established values'." As the premier began to purge
all the imperial censors who spoke up against him, the more important
charge of the opposition was that he wanted to "shut up the mouths
of all people"; i.e., muzzle all free criticism of the government.

The Chinese Government had never perfected a machinery of party
rule with recognised rights and responsibilities of the party in power
"and the opposition. There was no counting of votes, show of hands,
yeas and nays, or any other form of establishing majority opinion. The
Chinese at any meeting merely discussed matters and somehow agreed
upon a decision. In principle and practice, criticism of government
policy was allowed and encouraged. The opponents might overthrow
the cabinet, or might beg to retire. When a bitter factional feud took
place, it was the custom to send the opponents away from the court
to hold different posts in the country. Even under Jentsung and
Ingtsung, famous leaders of government like Fan Chungyen and
Ouyang Shiu had been dismissed to temporary obscurity, and had
then returned to power. In this way one party came to power and
another went out.

1 The bickerings and dissensions at the court now were increased by
the peculiar Sung system of government, which centred no clear-cut
responsibility on one man as prime minister. The cabinet was more
like a state council, with the emperor holding the balance of power.
The government consisted of a complicated, cumbersome system of
interlocking departments with duplicating functions, so that the final
decision always rested with the emperor himself. The so-called
"premier" (shiang), a social term, went by the complicated title of
"General Control Head of the Chancellery and the Imperial Secre-